Update 11:15 a.m.:
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has lifted the mandatory Zone A evacuation order, allowing residents in coastal Virginia to return home.
The order was lifted Friday morning after meteorologists forecast Hurricane Florence to shift its course away from Hampton Roads, instead traveling west after hitting North Carolina, traveling to the Appalachian Mountains, then turning north from there.
“The imminent threat of coastal flooding and high winds have passed for our coastal communities as Hurricane Florence has made landfall in the Carolinas and we believe it is safe for Virginians to begin returning home,” Northam said in a governor’s office news release. “We are shifting our focus to the expected inland flooding and damage to Southwest Virginia as Florence turns north this weekend.”
In James City County and Williamsburg, only Jamestown Island was affected by the evacuation order. In York County, parts of Poquoson and most of Seaford were in Zone A and evacuated.
Now that the order is lifted, individual localities will coordinate the return of their citizens based on area flooding, road conditions, public health and medical concerns, public safety issues, ongoing response activities, and critical utility restoration, the release said.
York County has begun to dismantle its shelter at Tabb High School. All vehicles, recreational vehicles, boats, trailers and other items must be removed from all designated storm lots no later than 5 p.m. Sunday.
Hurricane Florence roared ashore Friday in southern North Carolina, pounding the coast with wind and rain, causing widespread power outages and raising fears of possibly “catastrophic” flooding across parts of the state.
Florence, now a Category 1 storm with 90-mph winds, made landfall about 7:15 a.m. near Wrightsville Beach, the National Weather Service said. The storm is creeping west at 6 mph and is expected to dump more than 3 feet of rain in some areas along the North Carolina coast.
“This rainfall will produce catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding,” the weather service said.
In the Historic Triangle, a coastal flood warning is in effect until 6 a.m. Sunday as surges from the storm could cause flooding during high tide along the the James and York rivers.
Elsewhere in the region, a tropical storm warning remains in effect for the lower Chesapeake Bay, including Poquoson.
In North Carolina, the storm has left more than 300,000 homes and businesses near the coast without power, according to Duke Energy.
The center of Florence is expected to move inland across extreme southeastern North Carolina and extreme eastern South Carolina over the next two days, then turn northward along the Appalachians.
The storm could bring drenching rains to an already saturated Southwest Virginia early next week, according to state emergency management officials.